Two Hong Kong TV stations to stop broadcasts of rolling poll results

The co-sponsors of the survey say decision due to announcement by political group, a fellow sponsor, to utilise data for electioneering purposes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 10:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 10:52pm

Two television stations which are sponsoring a rolling poll on the Legislative Council elections have stopped broadcasting the results, after a co-sponsoring political group announced it will make use of the data for electioneering.

As media organisations, Cable TV and Now TV said it would be “inappropriate” for them to continue working together with the political group.

The poll, conducted by the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme, has sparked controversy since it was launched late last month. Last week, it was criticised by several political parties, whose candidates were shown as lagging, for having a small sample size, with only 100 to 300 people in each of the five geographical constituencies.

The pollsters cited budget constraints, adding it would raise the size closer to the election.

In a statement yesterday, Cable TV said it found out only on Wednesday that co-sponsor Power for Democracy was planning to make use of some of the poll data to compile a large-scale survey, to be released on September 2, two days before polling day.

“Power for Democracy has ... [said] the survey with 5,000 [people] will be indicative and helpful for political parties to adjust their strategies and win more seats,” the statement read. “Cable TV considers it is not appropriate for itself, as a media organisation, to co-sponsor an opinion poll for electioneering,” it added. It will stop showing the results today.

Under the law, broadcasts must be politically neutral, with equal treatment given to candidates during the election period.

On the first day the poll results were announced, the HKU pollsters stated in a press release the survey was co-sponsored by the two stations, online news portal HK01 and Power for Democracy.

Cable TV news editor Lam Miu-yan had noted the group’s participation, but said her station was not aware it planned to use the data for the “5,000-people survey”. Now TV said it had never before co-sponsored a survey with a political body, and it was not informed of Power for Democracy’s participation during negotiations on the poll contract with HKU.

Both stations said they have not decided on whether to withdraw sponsorships or not.

Karie Pang Ka-lai, assistant director of HKU’s public opinion programme, said her team did not expect the political group to come up with “a different purpose” for the data after the deal was made but stressed that the pollsters’ independence had not been compromised.

Power for Democracy, meanwhile, said it was “shocked” and “did not understand” the broadcasters’ decision.